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How to Make a Kitchen Garden| Almanac.com

What to Grow in a Kitchen Garden

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Planting a kitchen garden and choosing the best vegetables

Robin Sweetser
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Imagine just walking outside your kitchen to your own food garden—gathering gold orange cherry tomatoes or juicy strawberries or sweet-as-candy peas off the vine. Food this fresh is more delicious and nutritious! See how to plant a kitchen garden, based on what you actually like to eat.

Cultivating a garden full of your favorite vegetables also makes meal planning a snap and inspires new, healthier ways of eating and living. Plus, there’s just no easier way to garden than having a kitchen garden right outside your window!

Make a Tiny Kitchen Garden!

What’s great about a kitchen garden is that it can be manageable, not overwhelming.  How about a simple raised bed that’s 12 x 12 feet? Small spaces can be surprising productive! 

  • To get started, observe how the sun falls in your garden and for how long. You’ll need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day for many vegetables. 
  • Locating your garden near your backdoor makes harvesting fresh produce super convenient. If you lack a good sunny location for your garden in the backyard, your kitchen garden will look good enough to grow out front.
  • Ideally, the garden can be close enough to the house that you can access a hose or a spigot. Plus,
  • Your soil should have good drainage. You’ll probably need to amend most soils with compost or organic matter.
  • If your soil is really poor, consider raised beds and buying soil and organic composted manure. Raised beds work especially well in small spaces. Just avoid timber treated with chemicals.
  • Plan an easy access layout, varying the height of different crops.
  • Make the most of your space with some container crops.
  • Many dwarf fruit trees can be grown in pots, and tender plants that can be moved inside in winter
  • Try growing vertical, too! Trellises can hide eyesore while supporting vining crops such as tomato, cucumbers, and squash.
  • Don’t forget to include some edible blooms, too, such as nasturtium, borage, and flowering herbs. They will attract pollinators and add welcome color. 

See our tiny garden kitchen! We created a pocket-size plot that was only 10 x 14 feet. With a lot of thinking and planning, it produced two wonderful harvests, fresh salad, herbs, fruit, veggies and even pumpkins (vining). See what you think. Have you a spare nook doing nothing?

Great Foods for a Kitchen Garden

Plan your kitchen garden with your favorite foods in mind. Here are some ideas!

  • Love Italian cuisine? Plant lots of ‘San Marzano’ paste tomatoes, ‘Corno di Toro’ peppers, ‘Genovese’ basil, and ‘Cocozelle’ squash.

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  • Crave spring salads? Who could resist tender lettuces you’d never find in the grocery store such as ‘Blushed Butter’, ‘Flashy Trout Back’, or ‘Little Gem’ and don’t forget thin-skinned ‘Diva’ cukes, crispy radishes, and ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes.

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  • Planning on canning? You’ll want to grow plenty of ‘Boston Pickling’ cucumbers, ‘Bouquet’ dill, and ‘Blue Lake’ pole beans for making pickles and dilly beans.

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  • Salsa a staple on your table? Tailor your garden to your taste by growing peppers with just the right amount of spice. Try ‘Ancho’ for slight heat, ‘Early Jalapeno’ for medium fire, or crazy-hot ‘Ghost’ peppers for the true chile-heads.
  • Do you detect a theme? Just as meal planning is easier when you work around a theme, gardens can have themes too. Think ethnic—Thai, Greek, French, Mexican, Russian—whatever family your favorite  foods belong to. Those specialty vegetables that would cost you dearly at the store can be easily grown at home.
  • Go Gourmet! To really save money, try growing the pricey gourmet foods that you love but can’t afford to buy. Arugula, endive, edamame, filet beans, purple asparagus, white eggplant, shallots, and mesclun are easy to grow.

Remember, many vegetables can be decorative as well as nourishing. Frilly, red-leaved lettuces make a colorful edible edging, scarlet runner beans or purple-podded pole beans are beautiful as well as tasty, and ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard comes in an array of eye-catching neon colors. If garden space is at a premium, just plant what you love most and enjoy it at its peak.

Inspired to plan a kitchen garden?  See some sample kitchen garden layouts and start dreaming!

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